The Great Wall (2017) 12A
In a cinema near you:
Two mercenaries (Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal) arrive at the Great Wall of China, eager to learn the secrets of gunpowder so that they may return to Europe as rich men. However, giant beasts - known as Tao Tien - are attacking the Wall and must help to defend it.
Yimou Zhang is known to Asian audiences for his over-the-top, artistically driven films that focus on primary colours and big, broad stories. Nuance and emotion play a part, but they're usually just seen as decoration rather than the emotional core of the story. Hero, The House of Flying Daggers, even The Flowers Of War all suffered from the same problem and it's the same with The Great Wall - it all looks quite pretty, but there's absolutely nothing worth talking about beyond that.
The film opens with a prologue that automatically puts the audience on the back foot; namely, that this is a legend and has no bearing on real-life. We're drawn into a world of bad accents, deeply clunky dialogue, CGI that looks like it's been pulled from a PlayStation 2 cutscene, and some amazing cinematography and production design. Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal are two weary, heavily bearded travellers who arrive at the Great Wall and are promptly captured by the military camped there. However, they've come at precisely the wrong (read: right) moment. A horde of beasts is about to attack the Great Wall, with little or no explanation for the audience. We're then treated to about ten to fifteen minutes of what appears to be unfinished special effects, with cheap-looking and poorly designed creatures rampaging across the screen. That ends, mercifully, and we follow on with more hackneyed, clunky dialogue that sounds like it was written on set via Google Translate.
It's kind of amazing to think that a screenplay as bad as this has passed over some famous desks - including Tony Gilroy of Rogue One and Nightcrawler fame. The film doesn't have much in the way of stakes because it just completely neglects to develop the characters in any kind of meaningful way. Even if they get into danger, we just don't care. Granted, it's quite progressive in how one of the Chinese military leaders is a woman and absolutely no-one bats an eyelid at the fact, but that's not enough to make up for the fact that neither the screenplay nor Zhang's direction allows us to get to know them.
If there's one saving grace about The Great Wall, it's this - it looks very, very pretty in places. The gleaming blue armour and the rich ochre of the desert pops right out of the screen, and the gleaming interiors of the Imperial Palace and ornate set designs really do add a sense of grandiosity to it all - but again, it's all just chintzy tat that doesn't help to connect us with anyone. Not only that, some of the action sequences are filmed in such a daft and unwatchable way that it's difficult to follow. By the time the finale comes around, the really, really cheap-looking CGI rubs off any kind of sheen on the film and you're left with Matt Damon, with a ponytail and a terrible faux-Irish accent, in a silly-looking costume with a fat paycheque sticking out of it.
Looks pretty in parts, but nowhere near interesting enough to warrant investing the time in it.
Review by Brian Lloyd | 17:00 | Thursday 16th February 2017 | Movie Review
Having read the review above I think the only Great Wall I'll be going to see is my local take-away!Posted 21:01 | Sat 18th Feb 2017
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